WASHINGTON—The body of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush arrived on Dec. 3 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, where mourners will pay tribute to the man who led the nation as the Cold War ended.
With hands on hearts, members of Bush’s cabinet, lawmakers, and Supreme Court justices honored the 41st president as his flag-draped casket entered the Capitol Rotunda.
The Bush family, led by son and former President George W. Bush, accompanied the patriarch’s body on the flight aboard Air Force One from Texas to Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, and then on a final trip down Pennsylvania Avenue to the steps of the Capitol.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the first official to speak in the Rotunda, described George H.W. Bush as a “humble servant” and “a principled leader.”
“He kept us flying high and challenged us to fly higher still, and he did it with modesty and kindness that would’ve been surprising in someone one-tenth as tough and accomplished as he was,” McConnell said.
The body of the Republican former president will lie in state at the Rotunda through Dec. 5, when a state funeral is scheduled at the Washington National Cathedral.
Mourners began lining up at the Capitol to pay respects to Bush, who died at his Houston home on the evening of Nov. 30 at the age of 94, seven months after the death of his wife Barbara.
Many spoke of Bush’s role in a bygone era of bipartisan civility in U.S. politics, a sharp contrast to today’s bitter divisions in the age of President Donald Trump, a fellow Republican.
“It really is about the character, and how they (Bush and others in his cabinet) ran our government. That’s why I’m here,” said Sheila Murray, 58, from Stevensville, Md., who came with her 14-year-old son Thomas.
After services in Washington, there will be another funeral in Houston on Dec. 6, followed by burial at the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.
Bush served two terms as vice president under fellow Republican President Ronald Reagan before his own stint in the Oval Office from 1989 to 1993, a time that saw the end of the Cold War as well as the United States’ routing of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s army in the 1991 Gulf War.
He failed to win a second term after breaking a no-new-taxes pledge.
Trump has ordered the federal government to close on Nov. 5 and both the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will be closed in observance. U.S. bond and options markets were also due to be closed, with energy and foreign exchange markets expected to remain open.
Remembrances to George and Barbara Bush sprang up in the Houston neighborhood where they made their home, at a memorial to President Bush at a city park and at the airport named in his honor.
Christy Smith paused over the weekend to pay her respects to the late president at a bronze statue of him at a Houston park.
“He set a good example for all of us,” said Smith, 39. “He always was caring and treated people equally.”
By Amanda Becker & Susan Cornwell